Who Burns Books and Why?Before the introduction of the printing press, burning books was an effective form of censorship. Since each book was handmade, there were few books, and it was possible to limit the spread of ideas and information by burning books. In recent times, it has had other purposes. Foreign governments have used book burning and other destruction to intimidate and illustrate their power. In the early 2000s, there were a number of instances of Harry Potter book burning. In the United States, most of the book burnings of various books that I've read about have been motivated by religious views.
Book Burning: 2001-2005However, until the Harry Potter books, it was not that common to find a children's book series as the main stimulus for a book burning event. In 2001, several such book burnings were held. In early January 2002, Christ Community Church of Alamogordo, New Mexico, became the topic of international media attention for its book burning after the pastor, Jack D. Brock, preached a sermon on the topic "The Baby Jesus Or Harry Potter?". Brock stated he considered the Harry Potter books to be "an example of our society's growing preoccupation with the occult. The Potter books present witchcraft as a generally positive practice, while the Bible expressly condemns all occult practices." After the burning of the Harry Potter books and some others on on December 30, 2001, the pastor's sermon and the book burning event became the topic of news features in both the United States and England. CNN.com reported, "As hundreds protested nearby, a church group burned Harry Potter and other books." The BBC News (British Broadcasting Company) reported that, "Pastor Brock said he had never read any of the four Potter novels - but had researched their contents."
In August 2003, the Jesus Non-denominational Church in Greenville, Michigan, burned Harry Potter books, according to a report from WZZM13.com. According to the report, "He [The pastor]says stories like Harry Potter that glorify wizardry and sorcery will lead people to accept and believe in Satan."
According to the the American Library Association, there were several book burning events in 2001 related to the Harry Potter series, and there were also reports of book burnings or slashings for other books in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005.
More Recent Book BurningsAmazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton, North Carolina reports on its Web site about its 2009 Halloween book burning that was rained out, although the targeted books were destroyed, and on plans for the church's 2010 book burning. The book burnings are not open to the public, but are by invitation only. In the church's case, members target what they call "Satan's bibles," those that are not the King James version, as well as other books and music.
In August 2010, a Gainesville, Florida church announced it would burn copies of the Quran on September 11, despite being denied a burn permit by the city. (Gaineville.com, August 19, 2010) While slashing and tearing books have become accepted ways of destroying targeted books for groups that don't want to break the law in cases where it is unlawful to burn them, the congregation planned to defy the law. However, after an outpouring of international protest, the church canceled the burning, but not in time to prevent riots and deaths in protests against the Quran (Koran) burning. (Reuters, September 11, 2010)
I was surprised to find that book burning continues to this day. It is an extreme form of censorship, one that most people, even those who support challenging and censoring books, do not support.